The Brown Scapular and the Ordinariates

simonstockThe Personal Ordinariates love Mary, the Mother of God. A much beloved part of the Patrimony of the Personal Ordinariates is Our Lady of Walsingham: one of the earliest Marian apparitions that took place in England (1061).

Better known to the wider Catholic Church is the second Marian apparition in England (Cambridge, 1251) to St Simon Stock: an Englishman and Superior General of the Carmelite Order. Traditionally Mary gave St Simon Stock the Brown Scapular, which has gone on to become the second biggest
devotion in the Catholic Church. But what role might the Brown Scapular play in the Personal Ordinariates?

With the creation of the Personal Ordinariates, and as such the returning of the English Christian tradition to the Catholic Church, we have found the Brown Scapular one of the many things which has shaped the wider Catholic Church that originated from the English Church. By the very merit of being members of the Catholic Church (as a 3rd Form of the Roman Rite no less), this devotion is as much ours as any other Catholic:
but its English roots gives us a special connection.

Many young Catholics who have taken interest in the Ordinariates often label themselves as “orthodox” and “traditional”: indeed, they are attracted to the Ordinariates as they are orthodox and traditional, with many identifying this by the “Lex Orandi, lex Credendi” of the Ordinariates’ traditional liturgy. Many of these young Catholics who have made the
Ordinariates their spiritual home, have been enrolled in the Brown Scapular: a case of like attracting like in terms of tradition.

In my opinion, any Ordinariate priest who wants to grow his community should hold a Scapular Mass at least once a year and advertise it to the local Catholic community: not only is this a service of spiritual care, it should attract the attention of those ‘orthodox
and traditional’ Catholic types who could make the Ordinariate their spiritual home. One of the roles of the Ordinariates is the veneration of English saints, many of whom were giants of the faith but have since been forgotten in the wider Catholic Church after the
Reformation. St Simon Stock was not only a Carmelite but an Englishman raised in the English Catholic tradition.

I would advocate St Simon Stock, along with John Henry Newman and G.K. Chesterton, are individuals the Ordinariates need to stress our legitimate claim as part of our Patrimony- not just for our benefit, but as they are fruits of the English Patrimony enjoyed and celebrated in the Church but ones few Catholics would associate with the Ordinariates.

By the Ordinariates promoting the Brown Scapular, not only is it a worthy devotion of spiritual benefit but it is an opportunity to promote the Ordinariates by associating ourselves with the second biggest devotion in the Catholic Church: if a devotion originating from a Marian apparition in England to an English saint is not worthy to be considered part of the Patrimony, I just don’t know what is.


This article first appeared in the UK Ordinariates Portal Magazine (06/2019)



4 thoughts on “The Brown Scapular and the Ordinariates

  1. The place of Mary has much earlier roots in English Christianity — apparently, back to the first century under the title of Our Lady of Glastonbury.

    The Somerset Tradition is that Joseph of Arimathea was the Virgin Mary’s uncle, that he was a trader who travelled to Britain to buy tin from Cornwall and lead from Somerset, and that on one or more of these voyages he brought the young Jesus with him. And that they built at Glastonbury a little, simple place of worship, a tiny church if you like, of interwoven willow branches plastered with mud: ‘the wattle church’, often subsequently called ‘the Old Church.’

    One cannot prove the truth of this by written evidence, but it has been an oral tradition which many Somerset people — and I am one of them — believe is true. In 633 Paulinus, the first Bishop of York, had the little church encased in wood and lead, to preserve it, but it was destroyed by the great fire of 1184.

    Source: F. Vere Hodge, MC, Prebendary of St. Decuman’s in Wells Cathedral, Glastonbury Gleanings, The Canterbury press, Norwich, 1991, p. 1.

    Benedictine monks subsequently built the original abbey with the title of Our Lady of Glastonbury adjacent to the “wattle church” — which was destroyed by the “great fire” of which Prebendary Hodge speaks. The author goes on to say that, in rebuilding after the fire, the monks first built a chapel on the site of the “wattle chapel” that “continued the dedication to the Virgin Mary: the Lady Chapel.” (Ibid., p. 3). Alas, the end came with the Dissolution of Monasteries in 1539, when the King’s forces martyred Abbot Richard Whiting and two other monks, Brother John Arthur and Brother Roger Wylfryd, and subsequently sold the property into private hands. Subsequent owners disassembled some of the buildings and sold the stone before the Church of England repurchased the ruins of the main building complex in 1907. It’s now in the hands of trustees appointed by the bishops of Bath and Wells, with the intent of building it up as a spiritual site.

    The (Roman Catholic) Diocese of Clifton subsequently established a new Shrine of Our Lady of Glastonbury “just across the road from the ruined abbey and subsequently formed a diocesan religious community that has adopted the Rule of St. Benedict as its way of life to staff it, apparently on property that was part of the original abbey.

    As a “cradle Catholic,” my knowledge of this heritage is completely serendipitous. In the 1950’s, St. Benedict’s Abbey in Benet Lake, Wisconsin, which is part of the Swiss-American Congregation of the Order of St. Benedict, attempted many foundations in suburban areas with the hope that the Benedictine spirituality would draw and permeate the surrounding communities, and they apparently were grasping for names. Alas, this was very poorly discerned — all but one of those foundations failed. However, the one that survived happens to be just ten miles from my home, so I have been going there fairly routinely for mass and sometimes for the divine office since 1984, and it happens to be named… yes, the Abbey of Our Lady of Glastonbury. The monks of the present abbey have delved into the history and traditions of the abbey for which it was named over the years and incorporated elements of thereof into the life of their community — one their guest/retreat houses is Whiting House, named in memory of the martyred abbot, and the image of the virgin mother in their church is an icon of Our Lady of Glastonbury.

    The image of Our Lady of Glastonbury depicts Mary, standing, with her left hand holding her seated son, who is facing outward with his right hand raised in blessing and his left hand holding an orb symbolic of the world. Her right hand holds a branch of the Flowering Hawthorne, also called the Glastonbury Thorn, which blooms twice per year.

    Devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Glastonbury probably fell into decline after Henry VIII suppressed the original abbey of that name, but clearly both the Church of England and the Catholic dioceses of the region are making an effort to recover this element of their tradition.



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  3. Very beautiful I have been reading the Morning Glory mag with some Maximilian Kolbe extracts talking about Our Lady Mary Mother of God, and it is so lovely. There are also pieces about St Mother Teresa. The cathedral of St John The Baptist has been streaming beautiful Masses and The priests and Bishop Alan are wonderful.


  4. THANK you Norm for that posting, so very interesting. YES,the Brown, The Green and White Scapular have been part of my life as a “CRADLE” Catholic for many years. Thank you, BILL H.


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